What are some suggestions and activities for such a partnership?
There are generally two options to organize your collaboration: share a Moodle course as a joint work and communication space, or use other online tools (e.g. Skype, email) outside this Moodle platform.
To share a Moodle course, ask our web administrator Katja Krüger (firstname.lastname@example.org) to create the course for you and provide you with the enrollment information.
The standard Moodle courses for the election project and the Going Green project are primarily targeted at German high school students and the tasks in it will reflect this. However, these activities are mostly content-based and will also allow U.S. students to work on the project theme in a meaningful way. Probably the best way to launch your cooperation is to discuss the project together with your colleague and seek out options for online exchanges. These exchanges can be facilitated via the course forum in your Moodle course or private messages between your students. You can also set up Skype meetings. For teachers, we have included a teacher-to-teacher forum at the top of the course page. It is invisible to students.
Online collaboration activities should progress through the three phases of (1) information exchange, (2) comparison and analysis, and (3) collaboration and product creation. Here are some ideas for such activities:
1. Information exchange
Introduce yourself! Students introduce themselves in the course forum (either in groups or individually). This could involve the students' hobbies, school and community, everyday activities etc. You could use this as a first step, say, before a Skype conference.
Create an info wall! Students create short blurbs and contribute short videos or photos of them in a shared padlet (an online pinboard). Propose guiding questions or an introductory theme, e.g. "Sustainability on our school campus" or "What we want to learn about our peers". Avoid controversial or face-threatening issues at this stage. At this introductory phase, a primary focus should be on trust-building and socializing activities.
Prepare mini-presentations! Students can prepare short presentations about their home town and relate it to the project topic, e.g. "Public transportation in my town," "Grocery shopping in our town" etc.
Exchange questionnaires! German students could formulate questions about their U.S. partners' home state and community: What does life look like there? Who are the people living in the state? What about the landscape and climate? What are famous tourist attractions? etc. Our German students are supposed to become experts on their assigned state and instead of researching this information online, they could discuss it directly with their U.S. peers. Use the Moodle plugin for creating questionnaires or tools like Google forms.
Discovery task: Ask students to review their partners' responses from the above activities and identify the most interesting, funny, or strange aspects. Why are these aspects so unexpected? What can students learn from them?
2. Comparison and analysis
In Going Green, students in both courses can complete the self-study modules and eco-challenges in parallel mode and exchange their findings, e.g. by posting them in the Moodle course (see Demo Course, course section "2. Group work // Exploring the challenges"). For example, in module on plastic and recycling, students on both sides can describe their schools' recycling and waste management policies, investigate their peers' attitudes towards this issue through a poll, or document the amount and types of plastic waste found on the school grounds.
Results from both groups should be compared: What are similarities and differences in both school communities? What could be possible reasons, e.g. attitudes ("Recycling considered more/less important than here"), infrastructure ("There are recycling bins installed everywhere on campus"), practices and habits ("People are accustomed to buying 'take-away' and 'to-go' products that are packaged individually"), and other aspects.
Communication: Your Moodle course offers the options of asynchronous communication (forum discussion) and synchronous communication (instant messages between users).
Collaboration: Your Moodle course contains a course database for uploading and sharing files and text. Also, a project journal can be used to document work processes and results.
3. Collaboration and product creation
Students work together to produce a joint product or conclusion of their collaboration
In Going Green, students can produce a joint sustainability action plan for both schools, e.g. launch a PSA campaign in both schools, organize a parallel upcycling festival, prepare a parallel presentation on "lessons we can learn from our transatlantic partners" etc.
Discuss the idea online, define a joint goal (create a website, shoot a video, organize an event, ...), and establish roles for the participants.
Set up a workplan, e.g. a mode for communication, a time frame (when to exchange ideas, when to meet virtually, by when to have results ready, ...)
Agree on how the result will be presented and, possibly, published online. How is it going to be evaluated? For example, students can write reports for their school websites or personal reflections in a learning portfolio or blog.
You see, the options for collaboration are varied. What your cooperation will look like will depend on the available time budget, student motivation, and other factors. We would like to stress that this exchange can be very flexible, ranging from a single e-mail exchange to regular Skype chats and joint development of learner projects. The goal is to create a satisfying learning experience for both sides, and have fun along the way!